Healthcare Facility Design Now Aims to Promote Employee Wellness

Promoting wellness through design is one way healthcare facilities are trying to recruit and retain employees.

By Mackenna Moralez
October 19, 2022

This is part two of a two-part article. To read the first part, please click here.  

It is an exciting time to be designing renovations and new construction of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been clear that these facilities need to be redesigned to not only prioritize the care of patients and residents, but also to promote wellness within staff. Between the lessons learned from the pandemic, combined with rapid growth of technology, these facilities need to be modernized in order to better recruit and retain staff.  

Jeff Simcik, principal, healthcare market sector leader at HED-Dallas spoke with Healthcare Facilities Today on the way new designs are better promoting the wellness of healthcare staff members and what they expect in the future. 

HFT: Oftentimes designers prioritize the wellness of potential patients, leaving staff rooms to be windowless windows. Why do you think staff members get overlooked in this way? 

Simcik: It was a matter of focus and priority. So much emphasis has been centered on the patient experience and recovery that often, staff needs fell into second place. Additionally, when you factor limited or finite budgets into the equation, it was natural to default to direct patient impact rightfully. But perspectives change and adjust. It is more evident post-pandemic that caring for caregivers directly impacts the quality of patient care. Medical professionals by nature are doers and problem-solvers that don’t allow inconveniences and preferences to get in their way. While that attitude is commendable and contributes to the successful accomplishment of duties, it also allows them to be overlooked and, at times, even undervalued or taken for granted. Now, more and more, their value and contribution have become front and center. 

HFT: How can healthcare facilities promote wellness and staff resilience through smart design choices? 

Simcik: The end-user experience is tied directly to the specifics of the design and its components. Intelligent design choices impact the staff in every way. The distance they walk, how often they bend over, reach, stretch, lift, etc., all have a physical impact. Sounds, smells, and ambiance cognitively impact staff. They are psychologically and emotionally affected by where they can get a break, have some privacy, and seek support. It is all interconnected, so if we can create an environment that is not only sensitive but responsive to these needs, it will help create a facility that is part of the solution rather than a contributing factor to the problem or challenge. 

Healthcare staff have a difficult job by nature, so whatever can be done to the physical environment to simplify that job will help address factors that contribute to fatigue and burn-out. There are various types of smart design choices that can and should be applied from finish selections that are bacteria resistant to ergonomically flexible workspaces. Additionally, the integration of appropriate “smart technology” into designs can further streamline various processes such as face recognition for checking in staff, tracking locations and status of portable telemetry and diagnostic equipment. 

Included in those smart design decisions should also be the investment into staff assets by utilizing some of the prime real estate within the facility for staff convenience and recovery. 

Providing not only views to the outside but an external garden away from patients and their families to catch their breath and decompress, get needed support and encouragement or even privacy is vital to staff wellbeing and retention. 

HFT: In what ways can healthcare facilities remain competitive with smart design spaces? 

Simcik: It is more a matter of survival rather than staying competitive. In any industry providing a service, the two most critical elements are your clients and your people. To maintain staff and combat attrition, facilities will have to stay up to date and adjust with the times in adopting practices and technology and creating physical environments that nurture the well-being of both staff and patient. You are not going to have one without the other. We are likely going to end up with primarily two extremes, the first being that many facilities, especially in urban environments, will continue to become more and more specialized, and they will be able to take full advantage of certain design approaches and/or and technologies that are conducive to that specialization. 

For example, consider the utilization of the acuity-adaptable room model for cardiology due to the predictable and protocol-driven consistency of the practice itself. On the other hand, facilities that do not specialize will have to become more and more flexible, agile, and responsive to allow them to respond to the various ebbs and flows of the ever-changing healthcare environment. Still, again this requires intelligent design decisions based on those specific needs. Both require dedicated staff, but the skills, mindset and perspective will differ to accommodate the model. 

Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor of Healthcare Facilities Today. 

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Topic Area: Interior Design , Maintenance and Operations , Renovations

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